For the last two days I’ve been in Richmond, Virginia, attending the James River Writers Conference. Since this is the first writers conference I have ever attended, I really did not know what to expect, but the event exceeded my every expectation. Not only were the various plenary and breakout sessions incredibly informative, but without exception, everyone associated with JRW bent over backward to offer assistance. One of the keynote speakers, author Adriana Trigiani, even went so far as to encourage us to send her our manuscripts, promising that she would force her agent to read them.
Prior to attending JRW, I was somewhat discouraged. I was beginning to think that writing a book and getting it published was a pipe dream. When I first started to pursue a career in writing I quickly discovered that I needed to be able to show potential publishers clippings of my articles that have appeared in print. Since I had not previously been published, I spent the last ten months begging local magazine editors to publish my writing for little or no pay in order to develop a portfolio of by-lined articles. My efforts resulted in three published magazine pieces and two online articles, with two more scheduled to appear in the next couple of months. My progress seemed agonizingly slow. Additionally, although I continue to work on my book, I have not yet finished it, and that, too, seems to be taking an inordinately long time. Basically, I was beating myself up and losing heart. I was about to abandon my dream.
What I learned at this conference is that I have accomplished more in a single year than most aspiring writers accomplish in two or even three years. Most of the authors explained that their books were written over the course of five to seven years. Several writers also told me that, as a new and unproven writer, having five articles published in the space of ten months is truly a remarkable achievement. Everyone pays their dues in this industry, and it seems I am moving along more rapidly than most.
Perhaps the most exciting event during the conference was being allowed to meet briefly with an agent. Having an agent will be crucial if I wish to get my book published. Editor after editor confirmed that sending an unsolicited manuscript directly to a publisher rather than through an agent is a waste of postage. My meeting went so well that the agent has agreed to read my manuscript; this is not something that is offered to every participant at the conference and I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.
As a result, I have discovered I am doing more right than wrong, that I am farther along in my quest than I could have imagined, and that I MUST continue to write. I have much to do in preparation for sending my proposal to the agent, but at least now I have a renewed commitment and even a bit more confidence.
Since I now feel much better about myself, I’ve decided to stay in Richmond another day to attend their Folk Music Festival, which is being held on the banks of the James River, just a few short blocks from my hotel. Then Monday morning, I am headed to the northeast on a leaf-peeping tour. This is something I have long wanted to do, and I understand that the fall foliage is expected to be exceptionally beautiful this year due to bountiful summer rains. I am also hoping that the natural beauty will provide the inspiration I need to finally finish my manuscript. So, stay tuned, because not only will I be posting about the places I visit in the next couple of weeks (Vermont, New Hampshire, and maybe even Maine, if I get that far north), but I’ll also be sharing what I hope will be gorgeous photos of the fall foliage.